A hallmark of the UConn School of Business is its emphasis on experiential learning to create impactful linkages among students, faculty, and industry. Experiential learning plays a critical role in contextualizing what is taught in the classroom to emphasize when, where, why, and how it should be applied. The UConn Business School offers diverse experiential learning opportunities, including internships, field experiences, integration of external industry leaders into classroom sessions, case study explorations, etc. A particularly unique way that UConn School of Business creates learning synergies is through our “learning accelerators,” where students work intensively with a client organization to apply what they have learned in the classroom and take their learning to the next level.
The Missing Piece
Until recently, the UConn School of Business portfolio of learning accelerators has not included projects that bring a business perspective to focus on social innovation and social entrepreneurship with the goal of having a positive community impact. While in the 1980s and 1990s, commentators noted the rise of the service economy in the U.S. – referring to the shift from manufacturing jobs to service jobs – we are currently experiencing a surge in a new form of service economy. Economic success at the local, national, and global levels increasingly depends upon extraordinary efforts at public engagement and community contributions that happen alongside traditional efforts at building strong, for-profit business sectors. UConn’s business students can commence their lifelong learning journeys to play a part in this new community-service-oriented economy by participating in our new accelerator – Sustainable Community Outreach and Public Engagement, or SCOPE.
The new accelerator offers learning opportunities for our business students to help address business challenges facing the social sector broadly defined. We define SCOPE’s target group of organizations to include non-profit organizations and for-profit companies that have social outreach and community impact as a significant part of their strategic missions. To avoid what some have described as the “tyranny of the bottom line,” our approach is based on the idea that having a positive influence on society-at-large complements the typical for-profit focus emphasized by most business schools. We emphasize the sustainability of this community influence with attention to revenue generation that is enhanced by incorporating a business or for-profit perspective. Rather than training business leaders for the non-profit sector, the SCOPE accelerator has been created to train business leaders – who pursue careers in either the private or public sector – that want to make a difference in the lives of others around them.
SCOPE projects are chosen based on the learning opportunities presented for our students as well as the anticipated impact that the projects will have on our community. SCOPE has several primary “pillar” organizations with which we maintain long-term working relationships. At the same time, SCOPE engages each year in a limited number of short-term relationships with organizations to help a diverse set of social innovation projects to achieve successful launches.